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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

EFL rejects accusation its policy on young footballers has 'confused' clubs

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey.

The English Football League (EFL) has denied it is sending out a "mixed message" about the promotion of young players after Luton chief executive Gary Sweet said clubs were "confused."

Clubs have been fined for not playing full-strength sides in the EFL Trophy, but rewarded for naming young players in league games.

Championship, League One and League Two teams receive a payment from the EFL Futures programme every time a player aged under 21, who qualifies to play for England (or Wales for Welsh clubs), starts a league game.

The EFL Trophy was revamped this season to include under-23 academies from Premier League and Championship clubs to give their players experience of competitive, first-team football. But the lower league clubs must field five players who started their last, or next, league game in EFL Trophy ties.

League Two Luton are one of 12 clubs to be fined for fielding weakened sides in the EFL Trophy, but had they played the same team in league games it is reported that EFL Futures would actually have paid them £6,900.

"Clubs are rewarded for fielding young talent in one EFL competition but are punished for doing exactly the same in another," Sweet told the BBC.

"EFL clubs are confused to say the least. There is an utter lack of joined-up thinking; completely devoid of any strategic framework.

"We were fined £15,000 for fielding young players yet those very statistics were included in the EFL's PR to promote the benefits of the EFL Trophy.

"Furthermore, for doing exactly the same thing in the league we've been lauded as an example for being bold enough to play our youngsters. It simply doesn't make sense."

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey has rejected Sweet's claims, saying the two competitions had to be judged on their own merits.

"I don't think there is a mixed message," Harvey insisted. "What there is, is two initiatives being run together with slightly different objectives that do not marry perfectly together. But they were never intended to."

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